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Unread February 2nd, 2009, 11:57 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Dallas
Posts: 257
Default Re: More than a kiss...

Originally Posted by ToddStark View Post
What of behavior is not driven by genes? Yours, to me, is a moot point; mutations change behavior, including tendencies to mimicry, curiosity, etc. and these mutations are either advantageous or not.

Hi Tom,

Thanks for your reply. The crucial point here for me that makes this interesting rather than moot is that new behaviors that affect the course of evolution are not themselves caused simply by the appearance of a mutation.

The whole point of arguing for "behavior first" evolution is that it is not at all moot whether species can shape their own adaptive environment, and that this behavior is not in any useful sense just the predictable causal result of a mutation. To me these are not moot points at all.

The behavioral implications of the mutation have to be exploited within a biological context. It is the definition of that larger context (life itself!) that makes biology more than just the sum of physical and chemical processes.

For example, I would respond to your "what of behavior is not driven by genes" just a little tongue in cheek with: "What of the Macy's Christmas Day Parade is not driven by the actions of molecules?" Not much, really, or maybe something, but who cares? The causal leash is too long to really make much of an argument of it.

Or less tongue in cheek and more relevant to the real point, "what is it that you think you can derive about mimicry and curiosity from the chemical actions of nucleic acids, enzymes and proteins? You have to already *have* a biological understanding of behavior in order to see the relevance of genes to it. A virus might be carrying some of the same genes as I have, that doesn't mean it expresses them in behaviors.

It's not like the genes themselves have behaviors written in their code. The same genes have different behavioral effects in different species, different environments, and even in different sexes in the same species. That's the sort of thing that makes biology different from physics and chemistry, and a historical science.

So in humans, psychological explanations derive from both biological and physiological levels of causal model. Even if you don't grant them their own independent level of explanation, psychological explanations at least require the biological context of our species, we cannot derive all of our behavior from chemistry (although there are interesting exceptions in things that date way back in evolution!).

I don't know if that helps, but I don't really want to dive into the "greedy reductionism" discussion anymore than I want to debate "free will." I enjoy discussions more once they get past those anachronisms, which is why I commented favorably on the New Scientist article.

kind regards,

OK, I can see why you'd want to stop the reductionism at a point where you don't get bogged down in details, especially inscrutible ones. I'll maintain my assertion that behavior itself is determined by genes and the genes in everything else in the environment plus the environment itself; so, except for lightning strikes and such, all behavior is determined by genes. IOW, behavior *is* all physics and chemistry.

So, I'll let you go your merry simplified way and try not to get too greedy with my reductionism...
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